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Papermaking 101 


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Papermaking 101 

Written By: Francois Vigneault 


• Blender (1) 

• Hammer (1) 

• Staple gun (1) 


Rubbermaid tub (1) 

or other waterproof container. 

1"x4" lumber (1) 

cut into two 5" pieces and two 9" pieces. 

Hook and eye latches (4) 

Canvas stretchers (1) 
sold at art supply stores. 

Window screening (1) 

Brayer (1) 

or smooth flat block. 

Cookie sheet (1) 

or other surface for water control. 

Sponge (1) 

Interfacing (1) 

or wool blankets for felts. 

Old paper products (1) 
old bills, junk mail, and other scrap 
papers, and inclusions (optional) such 
as fabric or paper scraps, glitter, leaves, 
or flower petals. 

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Papermaking 101 


Paper, first invented in China around the 1st or 2nd century A.D., is now so ubiquitous that it 
has achieved near-invisibility in our modern world. The average American household 
receives more than 100 pounds of unwanted junk mail each year! However, creating a 
handmade sheet of paper can remind anyone of this everyday object's noble origins. 

Here's a chance to give your unwanted papers a second life for stationery, collage, or 
anything else you can imagine. Rediscover this ancient and oh-so-easy art form. 

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Papermaking 101 

• Mold and deckle: The frame that's used to make paper. The mold is the bottom portion, 
which includes the stiff mesh that the screen rests on. The deckle is the upper portion, 
which determines the shape and size of the sheet of paper (the ragged edges seen in 
handmade papers are called deckle edges). There are many different versions of this mold 
and deckle setup; for this project we use a variation called a deckle box or pour mold. 

• Couching: Pronounced "cooching" (it's derived from the French coucher, "to lay"), this is 
the process of transferring the wet sheet from the mold to another surface (the felt) to dry. 

• Felts: Sometimes called couching sheets, these are the pieces of material used to 
separate sheets of wet paper while they dry. Felts are available at art supply shops; 
however, interfacing or old wool army blankets can also work well. 

• Pulp: The mix of water and plant fibers that your paper is made of. You can create pulp 
from cotton linters (sold at art supply stores) and other plant fibers, but in this project we' 
make pulp by reusing scrap paper and junk mail. 

© Make Projects 

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Papermaking 101 

• Cut the window screening to a size 
slightly larger than the outside 
dimensions of the canvas stretcher 
(my canvas stretcher here is 
7"x9"). Use a staple gun to attach 
the window screening mesh to the 
canvas stretcher, making sure it's 
as taut as possible. 

• Cut 4 pieces of 1"x4" lumber (here 
my pieces were 5" and 9" long) to 
fit together into a rectangle — the 
interior size will be the finished 
size of your paper (5"x7" in this 
case). Secure the sides with wood 
glue and nails. 

• Add the hook and eye latches on 
either side of the mold and deckle 
box to hold them together tightly. 

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Page 4 of 9 

Papermaking 101 

• The paper you choose to recycle will affect the consistency, color, and feel of your 
handmade paper. In general, bills and printer papers will create a smoother, more 
consistent sheet, while magazine pages and glossy papers will tend to chop up more 
irregularly, creating a more "artistic" look. Experiment with mixing different papers 

• Cut or tear your paper into approximately 1" square pieces, and place them in the blender 
with enough water to cover them completely. With the pour method, you can make as 
much pulp as you want at a time; a good rule of thumb is that whatever the size of your 
original sheet, the pulp you make from it will make a sheet about 1" smaller in both width 
and length. 

• Blend the paper scraps and water until all large chunks are pulverized (about 30 seconds 
to 1 minute). The longer you blend the pulp, the smoother and more regular your paper will 
be. Pulping can dull your blender's blades quickly, so it's a good idea to keep a dedicated 
papermaking blade or get a separate blender (you can usually find one at a thrift store) if 
you want to make paper frequently. 

• Personalize your pulp! You can add in a wide variety of materials while blending, including 
leaves, flowers, glitter, confetti, seeds, and much more. It's best not to blend ribbons or 
other long fibers, as they can get wound around the blades. Finally, consider dyeing your 
pulp (see the Make: Projects guide Natural Dyeing 101 ). 

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Papermaking 101 

• Fill your vat with enough water to cover the mesh on the resting pour mold by at least 1/2". 
(A large Rubbermaid tub works great, and can be used to store your papermaking supplies 
when not in use.) 

• Using the hook and eye latches, secure the deckle box and the mold. Place them in the 
vat, sliding in at an angle to discourage air pockets from forming. 

• Pour your pulp onto the mesh. The more pulp poured, the thicker the paper. Use your 
fingers or a spoon to stir the pulp and distribute the fibers evenly across the surface of the 

• Slowly pull the pour mold upward, letting the water drain back into the tub. Place the entire 
apparatus on a cookie sheet to keep water from getting everywhere. 

• In traditional Western papermaking, the entire vat is filled with a pulp mixture, which 
makes for more consistency from sheet to sheet. The pour method, on the other hand, 
makes it really easy to vary the texture, color, and weight of your sheets; each one can be 
totally different! This makes it an ideal technique for beginners, who may want to 
experiment wildly before settling on a style. 

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Papermaking 101 

Undo the hook and eye latches and lift the deckle box, being careful not to pull the wet 
sheet up with it. 

Lay your felt (I used interfacing for this project) onto the wet sheet. Carefully turn over the 
felt, sheet, and mold. Be sure to hold the layers together. 

• Use a sponge to soak up any excess water from the sheet, pressing down on top of the 
felt and wringing out the sponge until you can't pull any more water out of the paper. 

• Slowly lift the mold from the paper surface, holding down the felt. The surface tension 
between the felt and the paper is greater than that between the paper and the mesh, which 
should cause the paper to stick to the felt. 

• Place another felt piece on top of the sheet. Using a brayer or presser bar (or any smooth, 
even surface), smooth the paper to remove any lingering excess moisture. 

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Papermaking 101 

• Set the paper between the felts on 
a flat surface to air-dry. Your paper 
may "cockle" (curl) a bit; if you 
want to reduce cockling, stack your 
wet sheets, one on top of the other, 
with felts between each sheet, then 
place a heavy book on top to press 
them (Figure J). 

• The drying time of your papers will 
vary from less than an hour to 
several days, depending on the 
humidity in the air and the type of 
pulp used. If the drying takes more 
than a day, change the felts once a 
day — this will keep the paper from 
getting moldy. If you're in a hurry, 
you can gently press your sheets 
with an iron, but this tends to make 
the sheets cockle quite a bit, and I 
don't recommend it. 

© Make Projects 

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Papermaking 101 


• You can easily incorporate designs 
into your paper by separating 
different pulp colors or textures into 
simple designs. 

• A piece of stiff, thin plastic can 
split your sheet into 2 or more 
sections. You can also use cookie 
cutters or a tin can with both ends 
removed (for circles, as seen in the 
opening shot) to create shapes 
within your sheet, or to make 
shaped gift tags, etc. 

• Pour distinct pulp mixtures into the 
separated areas, pull your mold 
from the vat, and remove the 
separators before couching your 
sheet. The pressure from the felt 
will join the separate sections into 
a single sheet, as long as they're 
approximately the same density 
and weight. 

If you'd like to embed flat items such as paper, fabric, or leaves into your paper, it's easy 
Dip the item into your pulp mixture to coat it with a thin layer, and then work the item into 
the pulp sheet right after you remove it from the vat. 

This project first appeared in CRAFT Volume 05 , pages 132-137. 

This document was last generated on 201 2-1 1 -01 07:1 4:09 PM. 

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